From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Cambridge Museum of Technology

2° 12′ 44.78″ N 0° 8′ 36.4″ E

  • History
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
Cambridge Museum of Technology is an industrial heritage museum located in Cambridge, next to the River Cam. The original building, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, housed a combined sewage pumping and waste destructor station, built in 1894.

The Cheddars Lane Pumping Station, which was originally opened in 1894, burnt household rubbish to raise steam, to power the engines which pumped sewage to the Milton sewage farm. At the farm it was used as a fertiliser to grow the crops which fed the horses that pulled the carts which collected the rubbish and brought it to the pumping station. Even the ash from the burnt rubbish could be used in road making.

The museum's main attraction are two Hathorn Davey steam engines, one of which is fully operational and often runs on steam weekends. The purpose of these engines were to lift foul water (sewage and rain water) from the sump immediately below it to the sewage farm at Milton, the total lift being about 43 ft. These engines were designed to pump 250,000 gallons of sewage per hour, a job which they undertook until 1968, when a new electric engine house was built adjacent to the station, although this site shut down in 1994.

The chimney shaft is 175 ft. in height, octagonal with square base, lined with fire-bricks for a height of 50 ft., and is 6 ft. 6 in. internal diameter at the top. In 1992 the chimney was laddered by Fred Dibnah, who undertook painting and pointing repairs and was featured in a BBC programme.

To cope with pumping demand after heavy rainfall, caused by the expansion of Cambridge, in 1909 two 94 hp National gas engines were added to the pumping station. These engines drove, by a flat belt, two 15inch Rees Returbo centrifugal pumps, but these were replaced in 1935 by Gwynnes Limited pumps.

By the 1920s, with a combination of the reducing calorific value of the waste, the end of Sunday collection, led to an additional Babcock & Wilcox boiler being installed and used when there was insufficient waste for the destructor furnaces. This boiler was fuelled by coke, a by-product of the Coal gas production process, often being sourced from the Cambridge gas works next to the pumping station. By 1942 this boiler provided the main steam supply, the destructor cells being used only for trade refuse and standby duty.

An electric pump was the last to be installed on the site, in 1937. A Crompton Parkinson electric pump motor drove the 18inch diameter Gwynnes centrifugal pump 114 hp electric motor that can be seen at the river end of its dedicated room. Its purpose was to cope with the ever increasing storm surges from the new housing estates.